Tuesday, September 24, 2019


1) The proper English term for the Jewish celebrations in early adolescence is hereby termed "b'mitzvah" (both singular and plural). This allows easy sentences like, "when are your kids' b'mitzvahs?" or "we've been going to a lot of b'mitvahs lately", to say nothing of gender-noncomforming kids.

2) The word ducking is now an intensifier, as in "I can't ducking believe Pelosi actually had the guts to start impeachment hearings", and "I hope that the GOP is willing to do its ducking job and convict". Easier on kids & Apple ducking lets you type it.


The English Language Academy

Saturday, June 22, 2019

Happenstance: the Print Edition

I assume most visitors to this blog know that I spent many years creating a graphic novel, and that over the past two years I have been serializing it online (you can read it here.)  Now I am trying to fund a print edition by running a kickstarter campaign.  You can learn more, donate and pre-order the book here:


Go have a look!

Wednesday, June 05, 2019

"But What Can I Do?"

A friend on facebook (who will be anonymous unless they say they'd like to be named) asked. re climate change: "But what can we do? I have yet to come up with anything we can do as individuals that could possibly help. Have anything?"

My reply:

"As individuals"? No. Nothing we can do as individuals is remotely equal to the scale of the problem. I mean, sure, drive less, fly never, get solar panels — all good things. But if everyone who cared did this it won't help. Only a radical restructuring of society and the economy can save us.

So what can we do? What we need to do is to elect politicians committed to a restructuring of the economy and society to a degree consonant with the problem. Not just Democrats; AOC Democrats, not Biden Democrats. (Along those lines: go to marches. Sign petitions. Give money. Make sure Jay Inslee is in the debates, at least.)

How do we do this? The only thing I know of, broadly, is to change the way people think. The best thing to do, I suppose, would be to find conservatives you know and convert them. That's tough, though. Second best? Try to convince liberals you know to treat the problem with the seriousness that is its due.

That's why I post on it all the time. If enough of us get that this is an emergency, one that will need to be solved by greater-than-WW2 style mobilization starting yesterday, then maybe, *maybe*, we can overcome this.

So talk about it, as often as you can stand or more. Be that annoying person who always points out that the house is on fire. And get everyone you know to talk about it.

If enough of us talk, if enough of us listen, then we won't be individuals any more, but a collective. And then maybe we can do something that can help.

Thursday, May 02, 2019

HAPPENSTANCE, pages 402-403

My graphic novel Happenstance — which I have mentioned & linked before on this (admittedly all-but-dormant) blog — continues to be published, two pages twice a week, here.  If you haven't read it, check it out!

Today's pages, however, are highly unusual: an attempt to (in Abel & Madden's marvelous phrase) draw words without the usual addition of written pictures.  It's part of a sequence that is interspersed throughout chapter 11, in which one of the characters sits with another in the hospital.  Intercutting between that and a conversation, I use different techniques to try to capture this experience.  Most of those techniques are visual.  This is linguistic — or, rather, linguistic-as-visual.  It's an old technique, of course: the first of the page owes much to the work of William Gaddis and similar writers; the one on the left is an example of concrete poetry, which is a whole form with its own traditions, etc.

But the result of this is that I am using more words in smaller fonts than elsewhere in the book. And the way the site that hosts the work works, I have to use smaller file sizes than the book was created in... and thus the words aren't always easy to read.  So I am reposting these pages here, full-size:
Click through to see it more clearly!

And if you haven't read Happenstance before, I hope you will check it out.  Just go here and click through!

(And don't overlook the helpful little "save my place" button on the bottom of each page!)

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Poem of the Day: Notre-Dame de Paris de Gérard de Nerval


Notre-Dame est bien vieille : on la verra peut-être
Enterrer cependant Paris qu'elle a vu naître ;
Mais, dans quelque mille ans, le Temps fera broncher
Comme un loup fait un boeuf, cette carcasse lourde,
Tordra ses nerfs de fer, et puis d'une dent sourde
Rongera tristement ses vieux os de rocher!

Bien des hommes, de tous les pays de la terre
Viendront, pour contempler cette ruine austère,
Rêveurs, et relisant le livre de Victor :
- Alors ils croiront voir la vieille basilique,
Toute ainsi qu'elle était, puissante et magnifique,
Se lever devant eux comme l'ombre d'un mort!

— Gérard de Nerval (1808 - 1855)

And here is a translation by Guy Lionel Slingsby (from Facebook):

Notre Dame is quite old: one will see it perhaps
Still bury that Paris it saw at its birth;
But in a few thousand years Time will cause to collapse
(As wolves do to cattle) this carcass to earth,
Twist its tendons of iron, then with a deaf tooth
Chew its bones made of rock, which fills us with ruth.

From all over the world, many people will go
To gaze at and brood on this ruin thus purged,
But these dreamers, rereading the work of Hugo:
Will imagine they see standing there the old church,
Just as it was in its glory and power:
Like the shadow of death, the cathedral will tower!

Friday, March 15, 2019

Poem of Some Day That Turns Out to Be the Poem of Today

W. S. Merwin died today. (NY Times obituary.)

Here's a poem he wrote for the occasion.
For the Anniversary of My Death

Every year without knowing it I have passed the day
When the last fires will wave to me
And the silence will set out
Tireless traveler
Like the beam of a lightless star

Then I will no longer
Find myself in life as in a strange garment
Surprised at the earth
And the love of one woman
And the shamelessness of men
As today writing after three days of rain
Hearing the wren sing and the falling cease
And bowing not knowing to what

—W. S. Merwin

RIP. Baruch dayan ha-emet.

Friday, January 04, 2019

My Photographic Novel, Happenstance, Is Nearly 3/4 Posted! Start Reading Now!

A graphic novel I wrote & illustrated (using photographs and photoshop) has been serializing online for about a year and a half, now.  It's about two friends who change their religious views in opposite ways, but in dialogue with each other; and about the fallout from those changes in each of their lives.  I thought I'd pop up here and say it's still posting! You can go read it!  Two new pages go up twice a week, on Mondays & Thursdays.  It's nearly 3/4 up — I just put up pp. 332-333 out of an eventual 444 yesterday, and we're nearing the end of chapter 9 (of 12).  So click here and check it out:

The graphic novel to date can be read here: http://happenstance.thecomicseries.com/

If you haven't read it, give it a try; and if you like it, share it with your friends!

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Poem of the Day: Four Strategic Lines

Four Strategic Lines

There, four strategic lines are anagrams.
I'm rearranging letters. A chaos features
in the rule, frames reason, grates a tragic,
rare formula. A strange aesthetic reigns.

Anthony Etherin

Friday, January 26, 2018

Barry Eisler Reading Order

Charted updated as of September, 2019.

Some of my favorite light reading are the thrillers of Barry Eisler. As he's gone along, the overlaps in his characters/series have become more complicated.  So, in a fit of OCD and with a nod to the Terry Pratchett Reading Order guide, I made this chart. I offer it here for the edification of all and sundry.  But do take the compiler's note about how you can start anywhere seriously.

(Click for a larger version.)

Incidentally, I got into this because I had just bought my aunt the second Livia Lone book as a present — she'd liked the first — and was trying to think of how to explain who Dox was and how he fits in.  It's tricky!

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Alias Grace: A Brief Review

So I just binge-watched the Netflix series Alias Grace, on Netflix (based on the Margaret Atwood novel, which I haven't read). I recommend it. It's a historical drama, focused on women's experiences (even the parts about men are about how they think about, and use, women), and a lot about power and the lack of it. It's also a marvelous narrative contraption, with some real subtle possible interpretations lurking just under the surface of the ending, leaving us with a marvelous ambiguity. Also very well acted & shot. (One other advantage: it's a good length, six 45-minute episodes, and it's a closed story, not an open-ended thing.)

If you don't know, it's based on a true story, a mid-nineteenth century murder case (this is not a spoiler, it's shown in the first few minutes, and then circled back to, repeatedly).

The only negative comment I have, really, is that the actors are required to play a very wide range of ages. The lead actress is superb as the main age she's asked to do, but a scene where she gets her first period was jarring because I'd assumed (just from appearance, not having adequately thought through the timing) that she was supposed to be about 20 at that point. Similarly, one actor at the end (shan't say who, it's a spoiler) is made up to be old & it's quite unconvincing. Not sure how this could have been avoided, though.

One particular thing I really liked is a spoiler, so I'll ROT13 it: Va gur svany rcvfbqr, jura Tenpr fcrnxf va Znel'f ibvpr, vg ernyyl fbhaqrq yvxr gur npgerff jub cynlrq Znel gb zr. Ohg ernqvat hc n ovg, vg'f npghnyyl zhpu pbbyre guna gung: nccneragyl gur npgerff jub cynlrq Znel qvq gur fprar, fb gur npgerff jub cynlrq Tenpr pbhyq zvzvp vg, naq gura gur npgerff jub cynlrq Tenpr npghnyyl qvq jung jr urneq. Vg'f dhvgr n fcyraqvq ovg bs npgvat juvpu uvgf dhvgr gur evtug abgr.

Don't let that stop you, though. It's quality television. (And now I want to read the book!)